The 16 dissident legislators, 11 of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and five Independents, filed a joint writ petition in the high court against their disqualification by assembly speaker K.G. Bopaiah ahead of the trust vote on the floor of the house. A division bench of Chief Justice K.S. Khehar and Justice Manjula Chellur took up the case on an urgent basis.
Challenging the disqualification, the legislators' counsel P.P. Rao told the court that first of all, the rebels were not given seven days to reply to the speaker's show-cause notice as per the rules of state legislative assembly.
"The speaker served the notice on the rebels Oct 8 and asked them to reply by 5 p.m. Oct 10, giving only two days to reply instead of seven days in violation of the rules," Rao said.
Contending that the disqualification was unconstitutional and pre-emptive in nature, he said withdrawal of support by the rebels was outside the speaker's purview and they did not violate any legislative rule before the trust vote.
"Under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution pertaining to the anti-defection law, the lawmakers can be disqualified only if they defied the ruling party's whip and voted against the confidence motion on the floor of the house," Rao contended.
Appearing for the Karnataka government, Soli Sorabjee, however, defended the speaker's action by saying that the disqualification of the rebels, including the independents was in conformity with the Anti-Defection Act, 1985.
"The seven-day notice was not applicable in this case, as the governor (H.R. Bhardwaj) had already directed the chief minister (B.S. Yeddyurappa) to prove majority by 5 p.m. Oct 12. As the governor convened the house Monday to take up the trust vote on the request of the chief minister, the speaker had asked the dissidents to reply by Sunday," Sorabjee said.
He also argued that the dissident legislators, especially the five Independents stood disqualified as they were not only cabinet ministers in the government, but also identified with the ruling party during the last 29 months.
"As per the provisions of the anti-defection law, independents identifying with the ruling party and being part of the government as minister for more than six months become liable to be disqualified as much as the ruling party's legislators," Sorabjee argued.
Adjourning the case for further hearings Tuesday, Chief Justice Khehar declined to pass any interim order in favour or against the disqualification of the legislators.
The 11 disqualified BJP rebels are excise minister M.P. Renukacharya, Gopalakrishna Beluru, Anand Asnotikar, Balachandra Jarkiholi, B.N. Sarvabhouma, Bharamgowda Kage, Y. Sampangi, G.N. Nanjundaswamy, M.V. Nagaraju, Shivan Gowda Nayak and H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.
The five independents are Shivaraj S. Tangadagi, Venkataramanappa, P.M Narendra Swamy, D. Sudhakar and Gulihatti Shekar.
Of the 19 rebels, seven were ministers in the 34-member Yeddyurappa cabinet prior to their dismissal Oct 6-7 after they withdrew support, expressing lack of confidence in the leadership.
Renukacharya, however, returned to the party-fold Saturday and voted in favour of the motion, which was passed through voice amid chaos and confusion in the house by 106 BJP lawmakers against nil from the opposition legislators.
Two more BJP legislators -- S.K. Bellubbi and Manappa Majjala -- joined the rebels Saturday.